Books, products, and programs which promote weight loss are big business. Fad diets have fed the weight loss frenzy for many decades. Yet, diets come and go. Can we even remember the names of all the popular weight loss schemes? How long a fad diet lasts depends largely on:
Low Carb Diets
If you haven't heard of the "low-carb" diet, you're not looking or listening. It's everywhere. The buzz words "low carb" are now slapped on as many food product labels as possible.
Low-carb diets which have generated a lot of publicity include:
The publicity has been both favorable with reports of short-term weight loss success and improved levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and triglycerides and unfavorable with reports of potential negative health consequences. Some physicians, nutritionists, and researchers have questioned the safety of the low-carb diets.
How Low Carb Diets Work
The basic concept behind the low-carb diet is that carbohydrates promote insulin production which in turn promotes the accumulation of fat.
Summarily, here's how it works: a lower daily intake of carbohydrates causes the body to burn stored carbohydrates for energy. As this process of burning stored carbohyrates (a.k.a. glycogen) occurs, water is released, and weight loss follows. The body also begins to burn fat for energy. Such a diet is called a "ketogenic" diet because it causes an accumulation of ketones (by-products of fat oxidation) in the bloodstream (which are removed by the kidneys).
The theory: in a state of what has been called perpetual ketosis or benign dietary ketosis, a person loses weight no matter how many calories are consumed from fat and protein.
Long-Term Health Effects
Now that we better understand what a ketogenic diet is - the safety of such a diet comes back into question. The long-term risks and consequences of a low-carb diet are being researched, and no definitive or conclusive evidence yet exists.
Compared to national guidelines for nutrition and weight loss, some low-carb diets contain high amounts of saturated fat, animal protein, and cholesterol while lacking nutrients, fiber, and complex carbohydrates considered necessary for maintaining good health. Health experts who express concern over long-term safety suggest some low-carb diets may hike the risk of certain diseases such as:
Low Carb Diets & Gout
Gout is one of the most painful types of arthritis. The suggested correlation between a low-carb diet and an increased risk of gout seems obvious. Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the body. A diet comprised of foods rich in purines (i.e. meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, eggs, etc.) are later broken down into uric acid in the body. According to NIH, eating fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrate a day can lead to the buildup of ketones in your blood. Ketosis can also raise uric acid levels.
Low Carb Diets & Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition which is characterized by loss of the normal density of bone, resulting in brittle bones. Brittle bones are subject to fracture. The disease process can be silent (without symptoms) for decades. There is also a potential increased risk of osteoporosis with a low-carb diet where calcium loss can result if protein intake remains high and calcium intake remains low. The ratio of animal to vegetable protein intake may also contribute to bone loss.
The Bottom Line
As is evident by analyzing the prevalence of obesity data, weight loss is a significant issue. However, it is important to realize that not all diets are healthy and some may have serious long-term health consequences. Low Carb 101 from Low Carb Diets at About, can help you analyze possible health issues and your low carb diet style.
You should discuss your overall health situation with your doctor before choosing a weight loss plan. Together, with your doctor, you can review your personal medical facts and options, and have a better chance of avoiding adverse effects of a particular weight loss plan. For some, it just may be that the old-fashioned concept of eating less and exercising more is all that is required.
Physician's guide to popular low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 9/2001
Low-carbohydrate diets: Are they safe and effective?, MayoClinic.com, 11/26/03
Last update 12/15/05